Uruguay is a cool place.

Uruguay has turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. Although a small country by South American standards and not one that we knew much about, it has provided lots of interesting things to do and see. It has also been friendly, clean, well organised, relaxed, and excellent value for money. Highly recommended and well worth a visit.

You can't drive to Cabo Polonio (unless you have a suitable 4x4) but you can get there in one of a number of "Mad Max" beach trucks in about 30 minutes. The village has an old hippy atmosphere, a number of interesting houses, a hotel, a lighthouse and hundreds of sea lions. A fine place to while away a couple of hours.

Another unexpectedly interesting diversion we visited was the Museo del Mar at La Barra (turn off the main road at S34.909125 W54.865605, the museum is at S34.898675 W54.870270). When we arrived the museum was closed, but the curator (owner, chief collector and tour guide) Pablo opened it for us. A wonderfully eclectic collection of marine life (both dead and alive) as well as lots of memorabilia of the surrounding beach resorts. You could easily spend a whole day browsing.

Another pleasant surprise on our way to Montevideo was the Museo Taller Casa Pueblo. This is either a habitable surrealist sculpture, or an idiosyncratic hotel. The architect/artist is Carlos Paez Vilaro (a buddy of Picasso). Take the old-style iron elevator down to the bottom, walk back up through the cave-like corridors, then watch the 20 minute film about Vilaro's fascinating life as an artist/adventurer. If you don't want to stay there you could wild camp in one of the several car parks on the nearby end of the Punta Ballena (S34.911157 W55.044973).

Most of the time we fill up with water at fuel stations. But as we approached Montevideo we were unable to find a fuel station willing and able to supply us.

One fuel station suggested we try the nearby bomberos (fire brigade). Somewhat skeptically Ann approached one of the fire men. Rather than offer us the use of their tap (or telling us to go away) they directed us to the nearest fire hydrant, got out one of their hoses and filled K-Nine up in 30 seconds!

Finding somewhere to park in a large city can often be very difficult. Not so in Montevideo! We parked on a grassy area that surrounds a number of "fishing clubs" at Punta Ramirez (S34.920038 56.171378, near Teatro de Verano in the Punta Carretas area) just off the main coastal road (La Rambla) to the south east of the city centre.

We are told that it is OK to park here for two nights. It appears to be reasonably secure and is only a $3USA taxi ride to the city centre. A good place to stay.

The city centre of Montevideo (like the rest of Uruguay) was very relaxed. Lots of well-preserved art deco buildings and wrought iron railings. The impressive mausoleum under Plaza Independencia containing the remains of patriot leader Artigas is well worth a visit (top right) Go down the steps on either side of the 30 tonne equestrian statue. There are no signs, and we saw no other visitors!

Food and Wine: Montevideo is full of fantastic restaurants with incredibly low prices. We ate at La Silenciosa, probably the best meal we have had in South America. Wonderful service, great food and good Uruguayan wine. A two hour meal in an old Jesuit Monastery for less than $20USA per head. Eat there at least once!

P.S. If it sounds like I work for the Uruguayan tourist office, that's OK with me!

Stephen Stewart.

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